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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Friday, November 9 2001  

More than you wanted to know on fasting

Looking forward to the beginning, next Thursday, of Advent (called the Nativity fast or "lesser Lent" in the early church), we've been discussing some of the history and principles of fasting. I came to this topic on the way to considering whether it would be good to do something special in this space for Advent, and the international situation we're going through now persuaded me it would.

The quote from Lawrence Cross's book that ended yesterday's entry struck me powerfully when I read it while considering becoming Orthodox: "Although the fasts practiced by the East are longer and much more complex than in the older Catholic style and even though they are not enforced by any compulsion by the church, the very last things to go are the fasts if an Orthodox person begins to slip away from the faith."

I'd often heard, before the old-style Catholic fasting practice was relaxed after Vatican II (1962-65), from Catholic acquaintances that eating meat on a Friday was a sin to them. But here Catholic author Cross is saying that a stricter fast was widely practiced but not "enforced by any compulsion by the [Orthodox] church." What a paradox; it was like merging the best arguments for fasting that I'd encountered from Catholics and those of the few advocates of fasting I'd known in Protestant evangelical circles.

Subsequently, I was given to understand that although Orthodox are encouraged to fast and supported in that through sermons and lenten menus and other ways, it is considered not a sin to lapse in the fast. If it's undertaken for your own spiritual benefit, how would failing in that be marked against your account? Furthermore, though fasts are discussed much among the laity during their observance, the church makes as many admonitions to not judge anyone else's fasting practices as it does to join the fast.

Fasting, I was told, is always to be joined with enhanced prayer, and especially during Great Lent the fast is much oriented to repentance and spiritual renewal. The other extended (by which I mean more than a day at a time) fasts seem more oriented toward enhancing and preparing for the feast, and that especially is the case of the Nativity fast, Advent.

By the most primitive meanings of the words, fast and feast complement each other. Fasts discipline the flesh to wait upon God, in prayer, by looking into the heart rather than the stomach. Feasts break the fasts and commemorate the bounty God pours on us, especially, at the end of Advent, in sending His Son to join our human family and be our saviour.

I'm not quite done so will take this up again on Monday, but promise to leave it by next Thursday.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

And while we're in the neighborhood: Tithing*

Two men were shipwrecked on an island. The minute they got to the island, one of them started screaming and yelling. "We're going to die! We're going to die! There's no food! No water! We're going to die!"

The second man was propped up against a palm tree acting so calmly it drove the first man crazy. "Don't you understand? We're going to die!" the first man exclaimed.

"You don't understand. I make a $100,000 a week," said the second man.

The first man looked at him quite dumbfounded and asked, "What difference does it make? We're on an island with no food and no water! We're going to die!"

The second man answered, "You just don't get it. I make $100,000 a week. I tithe. My pastor will find me!"

—Sent by Sally Covolo
*A tithe is 10 percent of income, the word usually used to refer to a measure of support of church work.

Thought for the day

A lady recently being baptized was asked by a co-worker what it was like to be a Christian. She replied, "It's like being a Halloween pumpkin." God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes off all the dirt you may have gotten from the other pumpkins. Then he cuts the top off and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, greed, and such. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see.

Sent by Judy Martin

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